The rise of the younger generations in professional men’s cycling showed no sign of abating in the Volta a Catalunya on Monday as Andreas Kron (Lotto Soudal) secured his first WorldTour victory at the age of just 22.
Kron proved the smartest as well as the fastest operator of the four escapees that battled it out for the stage win, with the theoretical favourite, the hugely experienced and reigning Spanish National Champion Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana Pro Team), forced to settle for second behind a rider 15 years his junior.
Lotto Soudal had a trio of reasons to celebrate on Monday as Kron claimed both stage and the overall lead, with his teammate Sylvain Moniquet also taking the top spot in the King of the Mountains competition. But Kron’s managing to steal the thunder of a peloton packed with prestigious names was surely the most striking triumph for the Belgian team of all.
Asked about the seemingly endless stream of new names currently succeeding in men’s cycling, Kron said “it’s an amazing generation, with [João] Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates), [Marc] Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates). “It’s fantastic that so many young names have something special.”
Kron himself had the edge on one of the better-known new young guns in the past, in 2019 in a stage of the Tour of Belgium at the end of a three-up breakaway. Riding for the Continental level Riwal Readynez squad, Kron was beaten by Victor Campenaerts (then with Lotto Soudal) but he still finished second, ahead of a certain Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep).
As for Monday’s sprint, Kron recognised that “it was difficult, but I went into it in last position which is the best position for that and I had a little bit of a gap, too.
“So I had some speed when I started sprinting, I’d trained a lot doing sprints in small group and I also won in [the Tour de] Luxemburg in a small group sprint last year.”
Amongst those he beat in Luxemburg was another hugely experienced racer, multiple Giro d’Italia stage winner Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates), from a break of seven riders. But as Kron pointed out, “I have never won in such a big race as Catalonia before. It’s fantastic, I’ve dreamed it, but I never expected it.”
“It was a hard stage and a very tough day and it took a long time for the break of the day to get away. Then Movistar rode hard on the second long climb and the group split and afterwards, on the flat, I was on Luis Leon’s wheel when he attacked. The further and further we stayed away, the more I believed we could end up with a win.”
Thanks to the time bonuses Kron will start Tuesday’s time trial with a four second advantage over Luis León Sánchez, the closest of his breakaway rivals, while the main peloton and the bulk of the other GC rivals, headed by Team BikeExchange’s Dion Smith, are all at 26 seconds.
“I will give it everything to defend my lead, even if it will be difficult,” Kron recognised. But in any case, after Monday’s spectacular win, anything extra the 22-year-old Danish rider gets in Catalonia this year can be considered a bonus.